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AWS, Cisco, Salesforce Showcase Latest in Contact Centers

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Image: Some Jazz by Tania Yakunova
Amazon Web Services (AWS), Cisco, and Salesforce held flagship events recently, all packed with announcements that illustrate how strategic contact centers have become for enterprises and how important this market has become for these providers. Let’s dig in.
 
AWS re:Invent
Amazon Web Services (AWS) transformed re:Invent, its annual Las Vegas gathering, into a massive online event with 500 sessions over three weeks. AWS has become one of the largest enterprise technology providers—reaching a $46 billion run-rate, growing at 29%. AWS has also become a must-go for anyone involved with the cloud. One thing that didn’t change is the iconic keynote of its CEO, Andy Jassy. He covered the AWS product portfolio (now hundreds of cloud services strong) in a three-hour discussion with sustained energy and impressive detail.
 
Jassy devoted 15 minutes of his presentation to Amazon Connect, reflecting the contact center platform’s exceptional growth. AWS unveiled that it deployed 5,000 new contact centers in March and April before announcing these five new products:
 
  1. Amazon Connect Wisdom assists agents by surfacing recommended answers using artificial intelligence (AI). Among competitive products, two things about Amazon Connect’s approach stood out to me. Wisdom determines caller intent by listening to the IVR conversation, then connects to third-party knowledge bases and FAQs to find information relevant to the intent. It then passes along that guidance to the agent for assistance in handling the inquiry.
  2. Amazon Connect Voice ID is a machine learning-based caller authentication solution that verifies customer identity by analyzing their unique voice characteristics.
  3. Contact Lens for Amazon Connect Real-Time analyzes conversations while they occur to trigger alerts to supervisors and proactive assistance to agents.
  4. Amazon Connect Customer Profiles use pre-built connectors to CRM and APIs to consolidate customer profiles and contact history.
  5. Amazon Connect Tasks leverages Amazon Connect routing engine to manage tasks like interactions, prioritized, and assigned to skilled agents.
 
These announcements illustrate AWS’s vision of leveraging the cloud to inject AI at all levels of the contact center stack. They also target agent enablement, whether working from home (WFH) or distributed across various locations.
 
Cisco WebexOne
Cisco combined its various Collaboration and Contact Center Summits with BroadSoft Connections into a single WebexOne Digital event that gathered shy of 10,000 participants. Cisco leveraged it to make several announcements about its contact center business.
 
Dave Michels observed that, while Cisco had elevated CCaaS to a top priority for its collaboration business earlier this year, it got dwarfed by Webex due to the pandemic and Cisco shifting its focus to enable work from home. Well, things reset this week:
 
  • Cisco announced its intent to acquire IMImobile, a CPaaS provider focused on digital engagement. IMImobile is a sizable player with over $225 million in revenues. It has recently acquired Rostrvm, a small CCaaS vendor, and 3Cinteractive, a mobile marketing provider, bringing Cisco a pretty broad technology portfolio.
  • Cisco unveiled it had rewritten Webex Contact Center, including a new agent desktop and a new workflow builder. This update is a significant undertaking. After the BroadSoft acquisition, Cisco selected it as its go-forward cloud contact center offer. The software, coming from the earlier Transera purchase, was geared towards small and midsize contact centers. Cisco is accelerating its pursuit of the enterprise CCaaS market with a multi-cloud, multi-telecom provider solution with this rewrite.
  • Cisco shared that it built the newly minted Webex Contact Center around a unified data platform for agent operations, contact center reporting, customer experience (CX) management, and AI predictions. It’s also extending its Cloudcherry technology beyond CX management to progressive customer profiling.
 
Cisco also highlighted, as a key benefit, the ability for a distributed workforce to leverage all the underlying collaboration capabilities of Webex Contact Center. It also shared a new development approach combining APIs-first and low-code toolsets that resembles the CPaaS programmable components model.
 
Dreamforce to You 2020
Dreamforce, presented by Salesforce, is also virtual. It changed its event format, holding its Marc Benioff keynote ahead of the event taking place Dec. 14-17. One thing remained consistent, Benioff, and Salesforce’s commitment to be more than a business and contribute back to our communities. Salesforce reached another milestone this month, growing its revenues from $21 billion this fiscal year to over $25 billion in the next one.
 
While the Slack acquisition was the highlight of Benioff’s keynote, he also made three other announcements: two contact center-related, and one toward reinforcement of its Customer 360 platform:
 
  1. Customer 360, built out of the Mulesoft acquisition, connects the different Salesforce clouds to create a unified customer view. It’s now featured at the top of Salesforce’s “mega-menu” of products and positioned at the cornerstone for delivering seamless digital experiences.
  2. Einstein Automate is a low-code software for automating tasks and workflow, particularly relevant to contact center, assisting agents for after-call work.
  3. Service Cloud Workforce Engagement is an AI-based workforce planning and scheduling solution built for omnichannel operations.
 
Most of us still don’t think of Salesforce as a contact center provider. It’s time to change. The company has been steadily assembling a complete contact center stack. Salesforce’s entry into the workforce engagement market is the latest, but probably not the last move in the space. Together with the Slack acquisition, these announcements aim at better enabling a distributed contact center workforce.
 
My head is still spinning, processing all these announcements. Something strikes me when I combine them all. The first inning of contact centers’ transition to the cloud was dominated by pure-play CCaaS providers. We now see large players from diverse horizons, unified communications, cloud infrastructure, CPaaS, and customer relationship management getting aggressively in the market. The next inning will be a different ball game.
 

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This post is written on behalf of BCStrategies, an industry resource for enterprises, vendors, system integrators, and anyone interested in the growing business communications arena. A supplier of objective information on business communications, BCStrategies is supported by an alliance of leading communication industry advisors, analysts, and consultants who have worked in the various segments of the dynamic business communications market.

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